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In the days leading up to Computex 2008 new heatsinks models are flying fast and furiously! What we've seen in the last week alone is only a taste of what's to come in Taipei this June. Stay tuned to Frostytech's full coverage live from the trade show floor because there are some really cool thermal solutions en route!
In this review Frostytech is testing out Noctua's new NH-C12P heatsink. The NH-C12P comes bundled with Noctua's 120mm NF-P12 fan (featuring SSO bearings, vortex-control notches, and textured leading impeller surfaces), making for a great low noise, low height, down-exhaust heatsink. The overhanging portion of this heatsink has the added advantage of cooling devices adjacent to the CPU socket too.
Tower heatsinks may offer the best performance of any heatsink style, but many computer cases can't accommodate +140mm CPU cooler heights. 'Down exhaust' or 'impingment' heatsinks are so named because the fan blows downward, usually through an elevated fin array hovering over the CPU itself. By combining a stocky base, heatpipes, and a large 120mm fan this style of heatsink can pack a major punch within a relatively short vertical footprint.
The Noctua NH-C12P heatsink itself stands 113mm tall with a single 120mm fan mounted, and weighs a moderate 550grams. It's six copper heatpipes fan out from the base to the nickel plated aluminum cooling fins above, and yet a portion of the fins are also swagged into the aluminum/copper base directly. The fan is held on with wire clips, and thin elastomer strips isolate it from the metal fins to stem potential vibration noises. The heatsink is compatible with socket 775 Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad CPUs, and all socket 754/939/940/AM2+ AMD Athlon64/Phenom processors. Noctua's NH-C12P heatsink retails for about $55CDN ($55USD) online.
To ensure good thermal conductivity between the different components, the copper heatpipes and aluminum fins of the NH-C12P heatsink are nickel plated, and joints soldered. Soldering decrease thermal joint resistance between the fins and heatpipes, or heatpipes and base.
A couple thin elastomer rubber strips are supplied with the fan, and these are intended to be stuck right onto a channel at either edge of the aluminum fins. The heatsink works with 120mm sized fans only, which are held in position with wire clips that lock into a notch running along the edge. The system can't really be modified for another size of fan.
The NH-C12P is constructed a little differently than most heatsinks of this format, as you can see in the above image. Rather than rely entirely on the six copper heatpipes to conduct heat, a 40mm section of aluminum fins is swagged onto the base and these extend the full height of the heatsink. This approach provides an extra measure of insurance should the heatpipes ever face a situation which leads to 'stalling.' In the unlikely even that occurs, at least some fins will continue to conduct heat away from the processor and disperse that to the surrounding environment. Well to be precise, the fins are soldered to the base of the heatsink, not swagged.
Retroactive Socket 1366 Intel Core i7 Processor Compatibility
One of the nice aspects of this heatsink is that Noctua has released a new mounting kit to make it compatible with Intel's Core i7 socket 1366 processor! The Noctua SecuFirm2 mounting kit works with any Noctua CPU heatsink going back to 2005, and best of all it's available for free from Noctua's website. Socket 1366 processors use slightly wider spaced motherboard mounting holes for heatsinks to attach to - 80mm vs. 72mm for LGA775 chips - so existing socket 775 brackets are not compatible with this new Intel CPU in spite of the fact the heatsink is probably still well suited.
The Noctua SecuFirm2 bracket (shown above) uses spring tensioned screws to securely mount the Noctua heatsink on the new Core i7 processors, and ensures optimal contact pressure thanks to identical Z-height between LGA775 and LGA1366 CPU formfactors. Frostytech will be testing this Noctua heatsink shortly to see how it performs with socket 1366 processor thermal demands... stay tuned!
Noctua's NH-C12P heatsink is compatible with Intel socket 775 and AMD socket 754/939/940/AM2+ processors. The CPU cooler arrives with a variety of brackets, separated into three packages. For each CPU socket small metal tabs are attached to the heatsink base, a backplate positioned on the motherboard, then everything fixed in place with spring-tensioned screws.
The multi-language manual makes installation pretty straightforward, then it's just a matter of attaching the clear rubber anti-vibration strips to the edges of the heatsink, positioning the 120mm fan, and locking that into place with the included wire clips. The fan is the last component to be attached; it blocks the screws for the heatsink mounting hardware so it must go on last.
The fan is oriented such that air blows down through the fins of the Noctua heatsink.
A small syringe of thermal compound is included, along with two in-line resistors which can be added between the NF-P12 fan and the motherboard; denoted by a blue and a black 3-pin connector. The blue connector reduces fan speed the most making the NH-C12P heatsink the quietest. The black connector reduces fan speed about half way.
FrostyTech's Test Methodologies are outlined in detail here if you care to know what equipment is used, and the parameters under which the tests are conducted. Now let's move forward and take a closer look at this heatsink, its acoustic characteristics, and of course its performance in the thermal tests!
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